Saturday, 4 June 2016

Black Rock 5 2016

by michael booth via black rock twitter site
For me, its probably the highlight of the running year.
Any sedimentologist couldn't fail to love the Black Rock 5, oddly actually a 4.3mile race that takes you from the village of Kinghorn in Fife, jumping and swollen with 1000 barmy runners on a balmy Friday night in June. The course takes you down the road to the beach, then acoss a mile and a half of sand, round a rock surrounded by water and then back. Coarse brown sand, fine brown sand and silt, all arranged in ripples that are a test to anyone's resolve. The tide retreated an hour earlier, but the route is a myriad of criss-crossed sinuous and oblique ridges, shallow ponds of stranded sea water and the occasional black rock and cowering jelly-fish.
The race filled up in an hour on-line earlier this year.
Race day arrived and I had a half day booked, so me and the missus arrived in good time and pitched tent at nearby Pettycur in the late afternoon.
As the sun tried to get out we had time to nip down to Burntisland for a coffee and a copy of the Courier. What excitement.

Getting back and getting the gear together, we walked up to Kinghorn with a couple of other runners and met the youngster at registration. Such was the excitement and anticipation the ladies immedately purchased 2 race T-shirts and disappeared then to get changed.  I have had knee problems this week and, having done no training, was having second thoughts about running. However two brufen put paid to those thoughts and as the crowd swelled, we met up, warmed up and made our way down the hill underneath the viaduct to the start.

The organisers patience grew short as the runners took ages to push and squeeze into the pen. It was chip timing so we all had to be behind the timing mats. I reminded him to remind the crowd that we were all chipped and eventually his barking dissipated and we were off with the shortest of pre-race preamble. I fairly minced down the tarmac toward the beach, a huge and noisy crowd lining the road, and wondered if my knee was going to hold out. In the event it was fine and we were soon on the sand where I caught Cat and I plugged on across the irregular rutted surface trying to find purchase on the corrugations underfoot.  Not good for the ankles, this one. We were making good progress and as the runners ahead strung out in a long line we were all working hard. I was caught by a Dunbar vest at the rock where I was blowing too hard to enjoy the strains of the pipers jaunty tune, and we hit the crisp headwind immediately after the turn, which was a surprise.

It didn't take me long to look for an easy time and I was soon tucked in behind a passing Military Training runner and I drafted all the way back to the tarmac. I was passed by a few more and couldn't find anything to give me speed on the last half mile, other than to tell myself to keep the remnants of technique that had largely been abandoned along the way.

It was down the hill, underneath the tarmac where an HBT and Perth runner came past, and then we were faced with the final lung shredding climb to the line. I was cream crackered at the end and felt the need to have a wee lie down to properly catch my breath. The aerobic effort required for that last climb as the clock ticked 28:55 took my mind right off my sore knee. 6th V50, so it could have been worse.
Cat finished a minute later for a terrific 2nd place behind the big striding Central Girl. It was a fair wait for the lady wife and as we stood we chatted to Jared Deacon who had had a run out and barely had a sweat on. We then made our way back to the changing, then the Carousel pub for the presentation and a couple of drinks. The place was bouncing. A fish supper and back to the tent after a good chinwag with a few locals.
Its a right good night, is Kinghorn. 

Monday, 30 May 2016

Dumbarton 10k & Sweet Gene Vincent Street

I turned up at the Clive Cookson 10k two Wednesdays ago. I was all raring to go, but found out to my chagrin that it was fully subscribed and there were no late entries or cancellations. It didn't say that on the entry form. Never mind. I wasn't the only one apparently who didnt get a place and left feeling dopey. But it was a nice night and lots of people milling around, so I thought what the hec, dumped the water bottle and pulled up to the bumper of the race at race briefing and off we went. Its a two lapper and I galloped around the course (as my brother put it later 'like a riderless horse'), but making sure I wasn't interfering with the proceedings. At 9k I peeled off and finished off with a slow 37 minute time according to the garmin. I had saved £15 and still had had a good workout. The cake was good at the finish.

A little while ago the Athletics gods down south saw fit to remeasure the Trafford 10k and proclaim it short, so my hard earned time earlier this year was to no avail. Not one to act like a downtrodden prole, I bounced back last week with a souped-up training session on Monday night (I always go well after homemade soup at lunchtime) and a race at sunny Dumbarton (the Polaroid 10k) on the Thursday night. No rose coloured glasses on for this gritty affair. It had to be a 'head down-arse up' workout. One where you are working so hard you havent time to wipe the slaver off your chops or wave an affable 'hello' to your running buddies as you pass them, not that theres many that come into that category.

It was a good hike up the road on Thursday. However, with pouring rain in Glasgow at 5pm where we picked up the youngster, it was thankfully dry, clammy and mild as we got to Dumbarton Academy. Plenty of toilets and parking so no rushing around and we warmed up along the first kilometre. The course wasn't what I expected as 700 runners hoping for a good time set off. It was chip timing and we pushed our way out along a flat cyclepath cutting through the leafy evening to Bowling, where we turned and made our way back to Dumbarton. It took me 4 kilometres to catch the flying youngster and she looked very comfortable on her way to a 38 minute PB. I cracked on catching a group of 6 with 2km to go just as they were fragmenting, and half got ahead and the other half fell by the wayside as we worked our way through a few twists and turns around the final kilometre of the local housing estate. A finishing time of 37:35 was very respectable and 5th O50 and another race I've always fancied chalked off the list. I couldnt have run any faster, but the braised steak lunch with curled up steak, knackered carrots and token mushroom from the borders garden centre is to be avoided in future before races.
Whats occuring here then....?

Next morning saw me plodding 7 miles around the city centre streets of Glasgow before breakfast. Actually quite a bit of hillwork involved running up Bothwell Street, Saint Vincent Street etc. Good for people watching at eight in the morning.

Its the Black Rock 5 on Friday, so no time to sit back and navel gaze. I've picked up a knee niggle and need to have a couple of early nights to get refreshed. Should be a good blast. It always is. Best race in town.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Witty title required

Training was a little patchier than usual this week with 2 days off. In my defense, I would say I was busy at work. But I am also having a wobble from the rigorous, spartan start to the season that has resulted in my folding back the duvet of success and plumping up the pillows of age related achievement. I took in some of the Ashington triathlon last weekend during a training run. Some bluebells were out and I saw lots of tulips. Not much going on, eh?
Knowing that I was attending a 75th Party down south, I worked out it was possible to shoe-horn in a park run on Saturday morning before getting the train down to Peterborough. The youngster accompanied me, like I can't be trusted on my own, and around 700 bleary bodies appeared for this early morning 5k flash mob in Newcastle's Exhibition Park. Aptly named. We were briefed and sent on our way with a cool easterly breeze rolling in to dampen our enthusiasm, even as the rest of Engerland was basking in chunky marshmallow toasting weather. I started well passing Alison Dargie early in the run and I was soon tucked in behind Emilia Petit the pocket rocket from Vale Royal. But she's young and has that irritating bouncy progressive sort of step action that broadcasts 'you sap, you've no chance of staying wth me'....or sub-conscious words to the same effect.

Right enough, at 2km I watched her power away and into the distance.  I was going well at the 2 mile mark with two sub 6 minute miles under my belt, but I suddenly came over all Oceanic; someone had cut the oxygen pipe. The sharks behind began to circle as my gait became laboured and uncertain and then they began moving in for the kill. Two passed in close succession in the last kilometre and then Dargie eased past putting time into me with every stride. The finish line put me out of my misery and I spent a good wee while creased up gulping in the Newcastle air as the oxygen pipework was restored; 18:19 and 10th was a good run, but I need to work on the stamina if all the good early work is not going to be lost later.

On Sunday after the night before I was out at 7am and running along the Nene and through the local park which was beautiful in the warm sunshine. The rabbits were everywhere and hardly moved as I ate up the pavement. Once again I bumped into a triathlon. Those guys really do like to get up early. I managed an easy 6 before wandering into the town picking up the Cathedral with coffee after and Sunday over running engineering train high jinx to follow.

With the sun out this morning, I have bagged a steady 4 and with a session tonight, it looks like it could be a better week on the training front. As if I need any more encouragement, the Dumbarton 10k number has just fallen through the post-box.

Monday, 25 April 2016

London... Again

It was London marathon weekend again. I put up a limp resistance initially at the idea of going south again, but I was easily beaten down as Mrs Mac eyed up a visit to Les Miserables and a few nights in the big smoke and bright lights. As the weekend neared and the train was booked, my rickety facade collapsed and I found myself adding War of the Worlds (dah,dah,daaaah) to the weekends menu card. If you can't beat them and all that.

Miss L. had deferred her entry to run this years marathon as she wasn't 100%, so we were just here for the beer (so to speak).

We had an easy wander around the toon on Friday before the show. The highlight of the evening was us visiting a coffee shop and over a bowl of soup, applying on line in a rush to enter the Black Rock 5 which filled up between 7 and 8pm on Friday (1000 spaces gone...just like that). Almost as exciting as doing the race itself. After some chin scratching, the Polaroid Dumbarton 10k also looks quietly inviting and just might be worth a punt. The bleary notion to have another go at the Edinburgh Half late in May was blown away after I saw the stupid entry fees. They certainly are cranking these up across the board.

After the show and with youngster 2 (lets call her Miss C), in tow, we agreed on a park run 5k in Fulham Palace Park only a mile and a half from the hotel for the following morning.
On Saturday at eight, we cantered down the high street in the cold and light drizzle and arriving with half an hour to spare had a look at the course. Seemed fine. No hills. Not too twisty and around 150 starters.
We had a short brief and then we were off. Its a two and a half lapper and there were occasional danger jockeys coming the other way; clearly citizens who were not lightly put off by a mass of sweating stampeding park runners coming the other way. As I had picked up a cold earlier in the week, I took it steady with a 6:27 first mile, then 6.17 and 6.15 or thereabouts for an 18:30; 15th place at 81%. Pleased with that given my tentative start. I had a warm down with the speedy youths and it was back to the hotel for a wash, breakies and, later, the Les Miserables matinee. Suitably refreshed afterwards, we picked up an Italian's in Hammersmith.

This lad did 2:47 !
On Sunday morning made our way to the 11 mile mark at Rotherhithe to see the marathoners. And very fast some of them were, too, I can tell you. One elite female peeled off immediately after she passed us to go into a shop and we never saw her leave, so not sure what happened there. Other than that, it was an easy weekend and I admit to being happy to get back to my own bed last night. Watched the BBC highlights today... usual blanket coverage of elites and charity runners although they did cover the leading Brits once or twice, so that was something, I suppose.
Good to get out this morning for an easy 4 and another short run tonight is still possible.

bladerunner-esque exploits in Oxford Street

Monday, 4 April 2016

Tay Ten Mile Road Race

I'm not at all sure how I found the Tay Ten. It wasn't on the Scottish Athletics Website. A flattish ten mile road race based around Perth; Not too many of those around.  After missing the Thirsk 10, I thought this looked interesting. The event was all pre-entry at Entry-Central. There were 350 places up for grabs and a video that showed a route winding its way north of the City along the rustic riverside of the Tay.

Me, Mrs Mac and the youngster were entered: There were also a capacious squad of Dundee Hawks on the entry list.

We set off from home at 7am and listened to the news on the way up north along the empty roads about another blossoming drug scandal. Are we growing a little tired of the regular exposure and inevitable, trite rejection of these revelations?.. but it gets you thinking 'whose on what' in the running 'neighbourhood'. Maybe I should get my hands on something performance enhancing, other than extra honey on my toast, sliced banana in my porridge and a sports gel stuffed down my shorts.

Perth was quiet and grey with no wind and a light drizzle falling as we picked up our numbers. There were a large posse of marshalls evident at the local community centre. It was the hub of the race. It began to buzz as the punters arrived. I liked the JogScotland Hazelhead runners gear. Bright, coordinated and stylish.

The start was at the local athletics stadium adjacent to the community centre and, as we lined up, I saw plenty of Dundee Road Runners, but no vests that matched my own from the Hawks.  

We were off at 11am and I fell into my stride early. At mile 2, I latched onto 2 runners who had started steady and had begun to run down the faster starting runners ahead.  One was from Fife and the other from the organising club, Perth Road Runners. Initially, I tucked in, but as there was little wind, there was no obvious benefit to be had and I tried, instead, to pick the best racing line through the puddles

Our combined trio began to eat up the gently winding paths along the riverbank; the Fife runner (Aitken, v50) looked strong, grinding out a merciless 6:15 pace, which, after 4 miles, began to take its toll and revealed a hint of mild threat in this hinterland of park run urbanity. Were my new buddies trying to leave me behind?  Was the picnic along the gurgling water of the Tay about to end?

The Perth runner Fotheringham (also v50) sat on Aitken's shoulder and looked back at me with some regularity, but he needn't have worried. Shortly after we overhauled another Perth runner, my resolve began to unwind at around 5 miles and a small but unequivocal gap opened. There was no Cheerio.

I began to look for something, anything that might get me back that 10 metre gap, that 20 metre gap.  At 50 metres, I reached for my gel. I tore off the top and supped the sticky concoction.  The gel began working its magic just as the previously overhauled runner came past and I squeezed the living daylights out of the lifeless tube of this remotely citrus affair. Having dropped to a 6:30 pace at 6 miles, I began to re-discover my strength of will and convinced my mojo to start stoking the fire again, delivering a couple of 6:20's toward mile 9 where I passed Dick of Dundee Road Runners. Finishing in 63 minutes it wasn't so much an authoritative performance, but rather more a thinner, plausible one for 3rd v50  (15th).  The youngster got a PB and 3rd senior lady and Mrs Mac, a strained calf for her efforts, but we can't orchestrate all the days events along the silvery Tay on a drizzly day .

There was no sign of my errant clubmates. I was looking forward to the chat.
This is an event I can recommend and good for a fast time. A nice goody bag afterwards, too.
Sometime later, we ended up at a hostelry nearby where we struggled a little to wrestle with the rubbery, pre-fried onion rings, the miserly tub of coleslaw, but generous portion of bread and chips. Thats probably because we're athletes and spend our time trying to watch what we put into our system. Know what I mean?

Monday, 28 March 2016

Elswick Relays 2016

The arrangements for the Elswick Good Friday relays have changed in the last year or two from what I remember. In the olden days, you could roll up (as a club member) on the day and decide among yourselves what the teams were. The course was also a generous loop around the Newburn Industrial Park, the site of a former power station, a graphite works and a First World War factory which handled cordite and was known as Canary Island. The race is now all pre-entry, as the numbers have expanded and the course changed to a narrower dog-leg, out and back affair. Its still all off road though and no hills. The teams were pre-selected and I was advised I was second leg in the second team. The forecast was good and its only 2.2 miles in length, so how hard can that be?  Pretty tough as it turned out. Although our lot were all over 50, I was the slowest out of the 4 man team and felt compelled to make sure I didn’t let anyone down.More facially tortured gurning action at the finish guaranteed then for sure.
The women’s race went before the men’s and there was a good crowd present to see Birtley take the honours.

The men’s field was large and it was Rob H who ran first leg. I set off (as he crossed the line) and tried to settle into a pace; the first mile was 5:30 and a little quick, but predictably the pace slowed to something nearer 6min/mile on mile two as I passed a Tyne Bridge Runner and was then overhauled by another Tyne Bridger near the finish. Tim M and Paul W rang strongly to maintain our 8th place in the vets competition and that’s the way it finished.   

I took a trip out to Whitley Bay on Sunday and joined the throngs in the cool spring sunshine as they promenaded up and down the front with a stiff southerly blowing a hoolie. I jogged 4 miles up toward the start of the North Tyneside 10k route into the headwind and realised they would be coming through very shortly so had to high tail it back to the car to grab the camera and take some snaps. The huge tailwind helped many to a PB and some looked to be having trouble keeping up with their legs.

Seven miles in the morning and a jog through the woods for another 6 later in the day. This week will be an easy one with the Tay Ten coming up over next weekends horizon. Looking forward to doing a few different races this year. I think this is a good idea to stop things becoming stale. There was even talk of the Loch Ness Marathon over drinks last night. Seems a long way off. I suppose Inverness is, unless, that is, you live in Inverness. 

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Trafford 10k 2016

I don't usually do forward planning. Well, at least, I do, but I don't admit to it. Plans frequently involve change and planning requires commitment. Seems unnecessary effort.

I entered the Trafford 10k around 6 or 7 weeks ago when there were a few of the 1000 places left. Mrs Mac also got in. I resolved that if I was going to beat myself up on a 10k this year, I'd at least give myself a chance and run the highest profile and fastest 10k in town. Well, its not in my town, its in South Manchester, so it required a 6 hour round trip and an over-niter in a  hotel. I had been to the shopping outlet earlier in the week to get a pair of Adidas Boosts, as I wasn't convinced that the Hokas were the best shoe for this event.

I woke this morning the birds were tweeting, the dawn was breaking and there wasn't a breath of wind. So far so good. After porridge at seven, we had a short drive to Partington and collected our numbers. No entries on the line today.

There was an air of expectation outside, but quite a different air in the toilets as I chatted to one guy from Birmingham, a student from Bristol Uni and another from some other far flung part of the UK. They came from all places. We were all there for one thing...the 10k that know what I mean, a quick time. Outside as I tried to look like a contender, I noticed names on numbers like Lancashire, Davies and Williams. I said hello to Ian H from our club who like everyone, was going through their own warm up ritual. Some more affected than others and a little bizarre to watch if you're not a runner.

The course was on a closed loop through narrow, flat countryside lanes bordered by hedges and peppered with farm entrances. We were herded together as the thermometer hit double figures and we were off sharpish. It was perfect running weather. There was chip timing but it only took me 12 seconds to get over the line. I had done 40 minutes dead in a training run on Wednesday so I knew I could achieve a sub 40 minuter at least. I even predicted 39:39 last week on this blog, but the hordes in front of me after the start limited movement and I struggled to get through the first mile before things thinned out a little.

I caught a small group at 3 miles and passed the 5k mark in around 18:30. All I had to do was keep it together. A couple of the group dropped off and I sat in behind a women with cropped hair, black top and a metronomic, purposeful pace. My thinking was if I could stick with her, we would continue to do 6 minute miles and I could forget about everything else...just tuck in, relax and try not to look like I was having a cardiac. I spied a clubmate, Rob, up ahead and counted him around 15 seconds ahead, but I cleared my mind and just grafted. In out in out went the breathing; pound, pound, pounding out the steady rhythm.

The last kilometre was on a poor surface, but having run along it during the warm up, I knew where the potholes were and tried to keep a good racing line and hey presto, the finish was there and going a little blue and well into the anaerobic zone, I hauled my exhausted body over the line for 37:24 (7th O50).

During the warm down I caught up with Rob H and son, both having great runs. I then had a low glucose moment with profuse sweating, but as I was still mildly delirious and elated with the time, it didn't bother me. As I ran back along the lane, I overheard the conversation of a couple of runners as they passed each other. It went something like this.......
'How did you do Alex?'
'Good run cheers; 29:54'
Thats great.....'
How did you do?'
Where else would you hear those times in casual conversation. Today 1 runner beat 29 minutes and 27 runners beat 30 minutes, with a huge haul of PB's and SB's. As plans go, this was a good one. One of my better ones. Mrs Mac seemed happy with her time as well, so happy days. I quite like this planning lark.